If there’s one thing you should never do in 21st century journalism, it’s read the comments underneath articles you’ve written being shared on social media.
After I covered Plumas Pride I said to myself, “homegirl, do not look at the comments; you wanna still love people.” There’s no way to love when you look at the comments.
But then there’s this anthology called “All of Me” that just came out on PM Press and writers I love are talking about MY essay in there on Twitter and I’ve been grinning like a fool over that, so curiosity got the better of me and I looked at the Plumas Pride article comments.
I know, I know. I told me so.
The problem with being a writer is that being a writer isn’t just a career or a job — but a mindset. You can’t help it. It’s just who you are.
Sometimes other people know you’re a writer even before you know.
All my life I’ve tried to be anything else but a writer and an artist because not unlike some other genetic pre-dispositions — it’s just who you are. You can fight your DNA and try NOT to be a writer but you know what happens to you when you’re a writer by nature and you try to fit in and work 9 to 5 jobs and smile appropriately and shop at Costco once a month and have a savings account?
You feel unauthentic. You feel like a fraud. No one in their binary or non-binary mind makes the choice to be a writer. It’s not a lifestyle — it’s a life.
You’re surrounded by friends and family and feel alone and compelled to sit in corners and get down every word that comes to your mind whether they make sense or not. You cease to be able to watch movies or read books without dissecting the process of their creation and wondering how much coffee the writer drank.
When people get in your face with their bright and cheery nonsense you often imagine what they would look like with elephants coming out of their ears. Sometimes you kill off passive aggressive bullies in stories you write on the spot in your head. You can’t help it.
Most writers I know keep to themselves and when young people tell them they are thinking of becoming a writer (as if you could become one), writers tell them to do anything else in the world they can think of. There is no such thing as trying to turn someone writer. You just offer them a hug and a cup of coffee and whatever employment gig that you are too busy to do yourself — or too much of a writer to take.
You think of time as spaces to be used or squandered. You see photos of people’s vacations and you wonder what it would be like not to constantly have your mind running so you might hang at a lake all day.
It’s like actively choosing poverty when you could have been rich. Choosing depression over happiness. Choosing to feel things deeply instead of going through life with a blissful obliviously smile. It’s not an easy life. No one chooses it; it’s not a choice — it’s who you are.
Recently one of the inmates I teach at High Desert State Prison came out as a writer. Nothing else he ever tried made sense to him. He had stories to tell. He told me as we were going over the play he’s writing that he now understands he was this way all along but didn’t know what it was. He is not a gang-banger after all — he’s a writer.
I love helping other people make their transitions to the other side. Letting them know that there are others like them and that they shouldn’t give up on themselves — and they should stay alive and be a writer — no matter how much society might look down on it — because being who you really are is the only path to happiness and life is short.
“It gets better,” I tell newly out writers. One day you are alone crying about a character and your own obscurity and the fact that you wrote yourself into a corner and don’t know what to do next. The next day you get an email from an editor you’ve worshipped for 20 years wanting a story from you for a noir journal because SHE thinks you are amazing. Or someone comes up to you in the grocery store and tells you your words helped them. Or a magazine editor wants more from you. Or a festival 500 miles away chooses to produce one of your plays.
The authentic you is a writer and no amount of judgment from yourself, your family, your church will make your biology any different.
The thing about writing is that even though it makes you an outlier and a bit of a freak and orientates your life entirely differently than say 90 percent of the population — you wouldn’t change it for anything. This is how you are hardwired. And I have found my tribe so I’m not alone. I’m attracted to other writers and artists and creative thinkers and quite frankly, it’s really no one’s business but my own how I live as long as I’m not harming anyone and refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle I’m a good human.
So, as I said, I read the comments. Most of them were supportive of Plumas Pride and thankfully had nothing to do with me at all.
There were a few hateful comments that weren’t constructive and weren’t based in scientific evidence or biology. There were a couple of so called “allies” who were equally offensive in their language who spoke of parents choosing an appropriate time to “expose” their children “to diversity” as if 10 percent of the population wasn’t LGBTQ and perhaps we/they could all just be quarantined.
Both the hatred and the well-meaning misinformation seem like wasted breath to me. The world literally needs love right now.
And regardless of my freak status, I’m going to keep being a writer. Because that’s who I am in this rainbow.